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SUMMERING

(Cross-posted at Through the Tollbooth)

As someone whose life has always been governed by school schedules – first as a student and then an employee – summer is a big deal. It has its own sense of time and space. Life is a different in the summer months. When I was a child, my father spent each summer doing research. So, on the first day of our vacation from school, we packed up our car and headed to a remote lake in Maine. He’d work, and we’d spend three months swimming, exploring the woods, making things, alternating between getting bored and being thrilled and amazed.

This past school year has been particularly hectic and busy – I’ve been looking forward to summer vacation since about October. And wrapped up in that eager expectation, is my desire to have more time to write.

Now that I am in the final countdown for summer break (5 more days!); I’m starting to worry about the exact thing I’ve been anticipating: More time to write.

amazinghappyMy two projects are A) finish a novel and/or B) revise a novel

More and more, I’ve been feeling like I don’t know how to do either one.

But then, last weekend, at my daughter’s college graduation ceremony (yay!), the commencement speaker gave some brilliant bits of advice to the celebratory crowd.

I’m hanging tight to one particular pearl of wisdom: STAY IGNORANT: Expertise and creativity make poor roommates. 

When you have your MFA, and have a book published, and spend a lot of time teaching writing; it’s easy to feel like you know how to write. Or, that you should know how to write.

Fact is, I don’t know how to write and/or revise these novels. Not yet. But… apparently, we’re more creative when we’re lost and confused. Reassuring, right?

junkmanSo, instead of the big grandiose plans of strict daily word counts and milestone achievements to get me through the summer, I’m planning my summer playtime and explorations. I’m going back to my days of running wild outside combined with lazing about on the floor, reading and doodling. Going exploring. Trying to find more creativity and less expertise.

As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

A FEW IDEAS FOR CREATIVE PLAY

  • Walk somewhere new and/or at a different time. Evenings walks on the beach are completely different from those at noon.
  • eyeballSit. Force yourself to stay in one spot for longer than you want, longer than you are comfortable. Somewhere picturesque and quiet: in the woods, by a water, on a bench in an art museum. Or not: by a dumpster, on a busy street corner, in a barren lot. Be aware of all your senses. But stay still. You might even squirm.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Wander through a fabric store. Soak up the different colors, patterns, textures.
  • Collect. Rocks, seashells, pine cones, toys, anything.
  • Make something. Try using craft supplies from your childhood: paste and tape and scissors and paint.
  • youareniceKeep a doodle journal. I’m looking forward to exploring some of the exercises outlined in SYLLABUS by Lynda Barry.
  • Eat alone at a restaurant. You can even talk to yourself if you like.
  • Challenge yourself physically. Climb a mountain, swim laps, dig a hole. Get tired.
  • Listen. To music, is one possibility. Or try something new: listen to a favorite movie without seeing the pictures. Blindfold yourself and listen to your neighborhood. It’s okay if you fall asleep. Sleep is part of creativity as well!

What your favorite ways to boost creativity?

~Sarah Tomp

starrycelebration

Lists of Lists

I tried a new exercise with my writing class recently. They each wrote a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, showing character change – using only 3 lists. The lists could be seemingly mundane – shopping lists before, during and after a vacation – or more profound – lists of things I wish I could say or do. Any kind of list has the potential to connect with a reader, and make a story more interactive as it requires the reader to fill in the blanks.

I was delighted with the results! It loosened them up, and gave them the freedom to dig a little deeper, to reveal the underlying emotions. And, they were almost completely across the board, both poignant and funny. 

It makes me want to try it, too!

Lists within a story can be extremely powerful and effective. Because they are short, and non-narrative, they demand the reader’s attention in a different way. The white space around the list leaves room for the reader to add his/her own conclusions. When incorporated throughout a story, the evolution of these lists shows character shifts and change. 

LISTS ADD (IN LIST FORM, OF COURSE):

  1. Focus
  2. Intensity
  3. Emotional impact
  4. Humor
  5. Voice

A LIST OF A FEW BOOKS THAT USE LISTS EFFECTIVELY:

survival strategies of the almost brave1. SURVIVAL STRATEGIES OF THE ALMOST BRAVE by (Fellow-Tollboother) Jen White

Billie, the main character of this middle grade novel – an emotionally powerful adventure story – keeps a notebook close by, at all times. She logs her observations about various living creatures, and the world in general. These lists and notes give us a peek into her inner turmoil – and even teach readers about the world. They’re a lovely mix of fact and heart. 

mayday by karen harrington2. MAYDAY by Karen Harrington

This middle grade novel, to be released in May, is the story of Wayne Kovoc, a survivor of a plane crash. He has always loved facts, and shares them with others as a kind of emotional shield. Having lost his voice in the accident, he is unable to share these facts – which leaves him on emotionally unsteady ground. Throughout the novel, he is determined to find his uncle’s memorial flag that disappeared in the crash. He creates Data Reports to track the plane crash investigation and recovery progress – which also, for the reader, tracks Wayne’s own recovery in a subtle and effective way. 

kissingtedcallahan_RGB3. KISSING TED CALLAHAN (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

This hilarious YA novel is told in alternating viewpoints by Riley, and her best friend, Reid, as they document their victories and mishaps, in pursuit of romance and all that involves. The dual views – female and male – of the same topics are especially humorous and shows their differences, as well as their similarities. We also see their priorities and understandings shift and change as they gain experience – and real feelings – with their various kissing partners. 

weight of a human heart coverTHE WEIGHT OF A HUMAN HEART by Ryan O’Neill

Written for adults, this collection of short stories includes incredibly inventive storytelling. One story uses only lists, charts, and diagrams to reveal the progression of a relationship and marriage. Highly recommended to explore unusual writing conventions. And, with an powerful emotional punch. 

Even if your lists don’t make it into a final draft, I think the process of honing in what exactly you want to say, or what your character is feeling and doing at different parts of your story could add refreshing insights. Humor and voice, too! 

What other books use lists? Are you tempted to give it a try?

~Sarah Tomp

[Cross-posted at Through the Tollbooth]

 

WELCOME TO THE TEAM TEAL SPRING 2015 YA SCAVENGER HUNT!

YASH INFOThis bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for the grand prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on TEAM TEAL! 

GO TEAM TEAL!

But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours! Enter here!

So, who am I? My debut YA novel, MY BEST EVERYTHING is a love story steeped in moonshine. My main character Lulu is so desperate to take charge of her future and to leave her small Virginia hometown, she cooks up a scheme to make and sell moonshine to pay for her college education… but things don’t quite work out the way she planned. She never expected to fall for Mason, a boy with no future.

Somewhere along the way on this hunt, I will share an exclusive bonus scene for MY BEST EVERYTHING –  where Mason gets his turn to share how things started. In it he describes meeting Lulu on that first fateful night. And Roni tries to write a song, too. Be sure to keep blog-hopping! Collect those numbers!

In addition to the grand prize, right here, below, you can also enter to win a copy of MY BEST EVERYTHING, a mason jar, and book-themed coasters.

And now… I am so very delighted to introduce

Sharon RoatSHARON HUSS ROAT, the author of BETWEEN THE NOTES, out from HarperTeen June 16, 2015! 

Sharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband (who makes fonts), her son (who makes music), and her daughter (who makes believe!). She worked in public relations for twenty years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. BETWEEN THE NOTES is her debut novel. When she’s not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical.


Between the Notes by Sharon Huss RoatAbout the book:

After her family loses their house, Ivy is forced to move from her affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, aka “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy at school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel… and there is no way to stop them. As things get to a breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were… including herself. Pre-order it now! (Thank me later!)

Personally, I love when lives unravel – I’m cruel that way – and I love that it sounds like Ivy’s life is complicated and complex. I can’t wait to read it!

EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PREVIEW:

A tattooed arm, lean but well-muscled, stuck out the window. It looked familiar, and when I lifted my gaze to the driver’s face I knew where I’d seen it before. Or, rather, where I’d ignored it before.

 The tattoo—an intricate pattern of chains and gears—belonged to none other than Lennie Lazarski, a senior at Vanderbilt High School, and its most notorious druggie.

His long black hair, always tied in a ponytail at school, hung wet and loose around his face like he’d just showered. He looked me up and down, the corner of his mouth curling into a crooked grin.

 “Ivy. Emerson.” He punctuated my name like that, slowly, in two parts.

 I didn’t think it necessary to acknowledge that I was, indeed, Ivy Emerson. Or that I knew who he was. Not that I could’ve spoken if I wanted to. My mouth was suddenly very dry, and my throat… My throat was doing its squeezed tight thing. I stared at him, blinking. Hoping he’d disappear.

 Lazarski’s eyes darted from me to our car to the brown house and back to me. He let out a single, raspy snort of laughter, then gunned the Jeep’s engine again and drove off, stirring up a cloud of dust that billowed at my feet. 

 Ummmm. And oh my. Mmmm-Hmmm. 
You know I like a bad boy! Can’t you just hear him say her name – but mean something completely different? Watch out, Ivy. Ivy Emerson…
Thanks for stopping by today! You can find me here, on this blog that I co-host with my Super Blog Buddy, Suzanne Santillan, or on my own website. I’d love to hang out with you on Twitter @swtomp and/or Facebook!
Before you head on your way, don’t forget to enter below for your chance to win 3 prizes from me…

That’s right, 3 prizes!

GIVEAWAY UPDATE! So sorry, YASH-ers – my giveaway expired a little too early! But I’ll be doing more giveaways later this month, so leave a comment if you’d like me to let you know when those go live! 

And nowwww… head on over to see who’s visiting AMELIA KAHANEY

Have fun and good luck! You can’t win if you don’t buy  enter a ticket #YASH!

~Sarah Tomp

a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA SCAVENGER HUNT #YASH

 

 

 

TOMORROW KICKS OFF

THE SPRING 2015 YA SCAVENGER HUNT!

YASH INFO

I’ve competed before but this year I am delighted to be a host and participant of the best one yet! There are SIX teams this year – I am part of TEAM TEAL -which means, potentially, the opportunity to win at least 120 books! Maybe even more! ENTER HERE! Go Team Teal!

Team Teal (2)The hunt runs from tomorrow, April 2 through Sunday, April 5; beginning and ending at noon Pacific Time.

If you’ve never been a part of the hunt before – or even if you have –  you should give it a try!

It runs like a giant blog hop, introducing you to new YA authors and books along the way. There are tons of prizes including a grand prize for each team. As you travel from website to website, you collect that particular author’s favorite number highlighted in their team color. Keep track of the numbers and add them up (calculators are permitted) – and once you’ve visited all 20 blogs, you can submit your answer and, if correct, you are entered in the drawing for the GRAND PRIZE!  If you win one of the grand prizes you will get a book from each author on that team! AKA 20 BOOKS!

As part of TEAM TEAL. I will be giving away a copy of MY BEST EVERYTHING, along with a mason jar and 2 book-themed coasters. Swagalicious!

Somewhere along the way I will be sharing a bonus scene where Mason describes meeting Lulu for the first time. And Roni makes up a song to go with it!

I’m super-excited to introduce you to the author I’ll be hosting here – along with an exclusive excerpt – ooooo-la-la. I do hope you’ll stop by and make her feel welcome!

And then! Once you have completed the TEAL challenge – because you are STILL SO EXCITED and want to hear about EVEN MORE BOOKS, you can go and visit all the other teams’ blogs and hunts!

For more information and to make sure you get hunt updates, sign up for news on the #YASH website.

I hope you’ll play along! 

~Sarah

Belated Blurby Gratitude

For me, one of the hardest, most anxiety-producing steps along the way to publication was getting blurbs. I think the word blurb sounds the way it felt to ask someone I greatly admire, who I knew was incredibly busy, to read my book, my heart, my soul.

Bluuuurrrbbb.

But! I was lucky! Two of my favorite authors, who each weave incredible word magic with depth of heart and soul, agreed to read my story – and were kind enough to share their thoughts – in a public on the back of my book kind of way.

Huge amounts of gratitude. From my heart, so sincerely.

Thank you, thank you, to Karen Foxlee and Jo Knowles.

Each of them is incredibly talented – and brilliantly eclectic – in their writing.

THE MIDNIGHT DRESS by Karen FoxleeKaren, an Australian author, has written two realistic novels for young adults – and in each of them, strong teen girls are struggling with growing up. THE MIDNIGHT DRESS is unlike any book I’ve ever read – it’s lush and mysterious and dark and hopeful, all at once. The Horn Book’s starred review said, “Though the layers are many, they coalesce into a dreamlike, eerie whole told in mesmerizing, sensuous prose.”

And then there’s her middle grade fantasy, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY, which Kirkus starred and described as, “A well-wrought, poignant and original reworking of Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.

I say it’s amazing. Gorgeous. Magical.

And then there’s Jo Knowles. 

More than one person has identified Jo as “the nicest person in the universe.” Although I’ve never met her, I suspect it might be true. 

I first became aware of Jo, and her powerful, important books while I was working on my MFA at Vermont College. She was (and still is) a close personal friend of one my classmates – who is now one of my dearest friends. I was new to reading young adult literature and wow. Her first book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL blew me away. It resonated with me in a new and unfamiliar to me. I was an instant fan. 

Since then, she has written several more books and I own all of them. Jo tackles tough topics, never shying away from the truth, even when it hurts. But her books also have hope. Forgiveness. Heart and soul. They fill you up. 

READ BETWEEN THE LINES by Jo KnowlesI just received her newest book, READ BETWEEN THE LINES. It’s written in several – I think 11 – different points of view. I can’t wait to read it, but I’m not the only one looking forward to it. After all, it’s already received several fabulous reviews, including a starred one from Kirkus, “The book proceeds, each new character entering, with his/her realities, dreams and secrets becoming another masterfully woven thread. With emotional explorations and dialogue so authentic, one might think Knowles isn’t creating but channeling the adolescent mind. A fascinating study of misperceptions, consequences and the teen condition.”

 

And so, a belated but oh-so-sincere THANK YOU to both Karen and Jo. It’s an honor to have your names on my book.

~Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Why, yes, it HAS been a long time!

But hey… check out this exclusive excerpt for my upcoming novel, MY BEST EVERYTHING on the website of the incredibly hip and cool and group, FOREVER YOUNG ADULT ~ a site dedicated to the YA readers who are “a little less Y and little more A.”

Yeah, I’m thrilled. 

And don’t be put off by the term “exclusive” ~ everyone’s invited!

This scene takes place after Lulu, Mason, Roni and Bucky have made moonshine for the first time. They haven’t sold any yet – they haven’t even gotten up the nerve to taste it. 

I hope you’ll check it out!

~Sarah

M

To be released March 3, 2015 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

 

 

 

*Warning! Shameless plugs and gushing ahead!*JumpFroggiesfinal

Here is a riddle:

By the pond you spot a sign: Writing for Children. In the pond, three frogs sit on a log. One decides to jump.

How many are left on the log?

Three–because there is a difference between deciding and doing.

Author Edith Hope Fine has written a wonderful book for beginning authors and veteran authors as well.

Here is the description:

Do you dream of writing for children but don’t know where to start? Jump, Froggies!: Writing Children’s Books is the perfect book to start you on your path to publication. Award-winning children’s book writer Edith Hope Fine takes you on a step-by-step journey through the world of children’s book publishing. From writing techniques to jump-start your creativity to how to submit your work, from getting your work published to marketing yourself and your projects, this book includes more than eighty-nine practical tips, plus journaling ideas for aspiring writers. Jump, Froggies! is a must-have for anyone beginning a career in children’s books.

*Shameless plug #1* My blog buddy Sarah Tomp and I each contributed to the eighty-nine practical tips.

*Shameless plug #2* I designed the cover and interior art for this book.

Here comes the gushing part: Jump, Froggies! is a must-read for all budding authors. Edith Hope Fine is a genius, she delivers a wealth of information in a clear and concise manner. The tips are sometimes humorous, sometimes thought provoking, but they are all very helpful. This book will be on my recommended reading list.

So go out there and start writing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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